It’s that time of year again; time to start thinking about undoing some of the damage from treating ourselves a little too much over the festive season. For all those times we said, ‘Oh go on then, it’s Christmas after all!’ Now your clothes are a little uncomfortable and you seem to have grown a couple of extra chins in those family photos.
But it’s a new year and you’re ready to get back into shape. There will be times it will hurt and you’ll wondering why you’re doing this to yourself. I’ve already been there and reminded myself, “Because mince pies.”
Where to go and what to do? Here’s our guide to the area’s best options for getting fit and healthy this year.
Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre (http://www.better.org.uk/)
At around £55 a month, the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is a really great value-for-money choice. It boasts a huge pool that’s sectioned into lanes for different abilities, plenty of equipment and a great choice of classes, which actually run at convenient times. It’s also set beautifully, with huge floor to ceiling windows, plenty of natural light, trees and a huge water fountain, which I find helps to really motivate me. You can also see down over the pool from one of the studios and most of the equipment has built-in TVs so you can watch your favorite shows at the same time.
The downside is that actually getting onto a class it really difficult as they are so popular! Despite being able to book easily on the app or website, you need to be ready to book your place within the first hour of the slots becoming available each week or you’ll lose out! Occasionally you can manage to get a last-minute class if there are cancellations, and beware, you are charged if you don’t show up!
Being a public leisure centre, Swiss Cottage can get extremely busy with large groups of kids clubs, but that does mean it offers so much more if you have children or big groups, with choices including a climbing wall, basketball court, squash rooms and more (at additional costs.)
It also offers a flexible, monthly rolling contract, so it’s worth trying out before deciding whether to commit. For all you New Years Resolutioners, Swiss Cottage is offering a January deal of no joining fee and two months free if you pay for 10 months up front.
If you’re looking for great value, all the machines you need, and you can motivate yourself to go to the gym without needing an inspiring setting then this is the gym for you. At £21.99 a month (plus a £20 joining fee) this no-frills gym may be the right compromise. It’s also open 24 hours with automated signing in systems, which is great for all you night owls and extremely early birds! It also offers a few limited classes.
HIIT Gym (http://www.hiitgyms.com/)
These unique classes mean business! Perfect if you feel like you’ve plateaued going to the gym on your own or if you need extra motivation to see results. And with these classes you will see results. They are pricey (though we’ve got a WHL-exclusive offer below) but effective.
The HIIT gym is a group class-based workout. The instructors are great, and with varied workouts that can work on strength, fat burning and stamina it never gets boring. HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, which is designed to help you keep burning fat even after the workout.
There is a downside to it not being a traditional gym in that there is not really the option if you ever did just fancy a workout at your own pace. However, if you arrive a little earlier to a class you could jump on the treadmill if you really wanted to.
A word of warning: personally I have to be at full energy to be able to take part in these classes. They are very high impact, no matter what your fitness level. So working out here can be a little ‘all or nothing.’ However, you won’t be bullied into doing that final burpie or shamed for not increasing the incline to 15 on the treadmill. It’s really important to listen to your own body if you feel it is too much.
The classes can also get extremely crowded at the most popular times (which gets a little worrying when people are swinging weights around). Some people might also feel that the showering facilities are quite limited given the cost, and often I feel I’d rather freshen up at home.
Prices vary according to membership, but if you want the most flexibility then classes are around £20 for pay-as-you-go. However, HIIT is offering a 10% pay-as-you-go discount for West Hampstead Life readers with the discount code: 10january. It’s valid until January 31st. HIIT also offers a one-week free trial, so you can try before you buy.
Virgin Active (https://www.virginactive.co.uk/clubs/swiss-cottage)
Virgin Active at the O2 Centre is one of the pricier options, but boasts a jacuzzi by the pool, decent equipment and great classes. It also offers spa treatments, which are very good. I’m not sure the price difference vs the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre just up the road is worth it, considering you get almost the same facilities and services. However you do get to avoid the children’s clubs and the service and quality is always great with Virgin. It does offer corporate discounts for many employers so be sure to check at work, as some of the discounts are quite substantial. For this month only it is offering a 12-month contract with no joining fee and a personal training package that works out to £99 a month. It is also offering a flexible rolling month-by-month membership at £106 a month with a £30 joining fee.
You don’t have to go to a gym
Every Saturday, this 5k run across the beautiful Hampstead Heath is a completely free, fun and friendly social project. What could be better than getting some fresh air with with your neighbors and volunteers in this national heritage site we are lucky to have on our doorsteps.
The run starts at 9am – what a way to start your weekend! You do have to register and bring a printed copy of the barcode you’re given, which lets you keep track of your progress and time. However you are encouraged to go at your own pace.
An even more social running group that sprung up from West Hampstead Life readers also meets every Saturday. Starting from West End Green, the group tends to head out for a 30-45 minute run with a variety of routes, including the stunning Golder’s Hill park before returning to West End Lane. No runner is left behind! There’s more about this group here.
Public fitness parks: Primrose Hill, Kilburn Grange and Swiss Cottage
Another way to keep fit is to run over to the beautiful nearby Primrose Hill, where there is a substantial outdoor fitness park. The ‘trim trail’ consists of pull-up bars, parallel bars, rings, low bars, sit-up benches and more. Once you’ve had a good work out you could even reward yourself with a very short stroll over to London Zoo where you can often catch a cheeky glimpse of a giraffe!
There are also free outdoor fitness equipment facilities at Kilburn Grange Park and outside Swiss Cottage Library. These are great if you love the outdoors and don’t want to get caught up in gym membership commitments. Personal trainers also use these with clients.
With all these options you should be in tip-top shape for next year’s mince pie blowout!